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Why families choose to home-school in Palo Alto

Families find vast educational resources outside of the traditional school system

Ellen Cate, center, helps twins Matthew and Julia Fazzino with fractions at their home on Nov. 16, 2017. Cate, a family friend who is also home-schooled, tutors the twins once a week. Photo by Veronica Weber.

In many ways, Jen and Hilary Bayer are typical high school seniors. They spent the fall taking SAT subject tests and are thinking about how to best tackle college applications. They're studying Spanish, chemistry, physics, music, statistics and history.

But the twin 18-year-old Palo Alto residents have been home-schooled since first grade. They're learning history by reading Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and Spanish from a tutor and the online program Rosetta Stone. Jen Bayer is taking a jazz piano class at De Anza College, and both girls plan to learn more about biology — and leadership — by serving as docents through a Stanford University class at biological preserve Jasper Ridge starting in January.

For many Palo Alto families who opt to home-school their children, the term is a misnomer for what their children's education looks like. Their experiences disprove the often-held misconception of a parent teaching a child at the kitchen table all day. Today, students learn through classes taken outside of their homes and online, tutors, visits to museums, hikes, travel and pursuit of their interests, whether that be astronomy, history, coding, cooking or Harry Potter.

Annette Fazzino, the mother of two young home-schooled children, describes it as "a-la-carte education."

Families' reasons for home schooling are varied. Some parents eschew the structure of public school and want education done their own way. Others with a child who has a disability or is gifted recognize their child would be better off in a different environment. Other parents want to provide extra support to a child who has fallen behind. Some students are professional musicians, are seriously pursuing athletics or have a serious health issue that takes them away from the classroom.

Parents say home schooling is a child-by-child choice: In some families, a son or daughter is home-schooled while a sibling stays in the public school district. Some parents also choose to send their children back to traditional school after being at home for a time.

Despite the fact that so many people move to Palo Alto for the public schools and many others take advantage of elite private schools in the area, the city is home to a vibrant yet almost underground community of home-schoolers. The aspects of education that so many parents seek for their children — personalized learning, time for students to follow their passions, real-world application, freedom from the rigidity and stress of high-stakes tests and homework — can be created outside of the walls of traditional classrooms, home-schoolers say.

It's difficult to pin down local statistics on home schooling. Not all school districts, including Palo Alto Unified, track or are aware when families leave to home-school.

A 2016 survey conducted by the National Center of Education Statistics found that about 3 percent of students ages 5 through 17 were reported as home-schooled, representing 1.7 million students across the country. This number has steadily grown from when the organization first issued a report on home-schooled students in 1999. In Palo Alto, that percentage would amount to about 350 students.

The Fazzinos

Annette Fazzino describes herself as a "reluctant home-schooler."

"I always thought it was too fringe and too strange for me," she said.

But events out of her control — the death of her husband in 2012 and the discovery that both her children have a specific health problem — led her out to the fringe, where she is now elated to be.

Fazzino's 10-year-old son and daughter, Matthew and Julia, attended Walter Hays Elementary School through third grade. Now fifth-graders, last year was their first full year at home.

Fazzino pulled them out of school because of their allergy to a common chemical preservative that's found in almost everything, from cleaning products and art supplies to cosmetics and even paper. Despite her and the district's attempts to make school work, both children came home with more and more "flare ups" — rashes on their eyelids, the back of their legs, and on their arms.

At home, Fazzino can more easily control what they're exposed to — but it doesn't mean they're at home learning only from her.

Before this year's solar eclipse, for example, they read books about the phenomenon and traveled to Idaho to see it in person. Instead of reading from a history textbook, they recently met with Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian for a civics lesson.

Like many home-schoolers, they take a variety of courses from online schools such as Khan Academy; Athena's Advanced Academy, which focuses on gifted children and was started by a group of home-schooling parents; and Outschool, which offers live online classes taught by independent teachers.

Fazzino is able to shape their education to their interests. Julia is into Harry Potter, so she recently took an online class called "Symbolism in Harry Potter." Last year, Matthew expressed an interest in cooking, so Fazzino found a book on the science of cooking and bought a host of ingredients, and they talked about how heat and different cooking methods transform ingredients.

"You can play off your children's interests and experience," Fazzino said, "because frankly, who decided we're studying 'X,' 'Y,' (and) 'Z' at school? Some things really don't matter, or there are lots of different ways to learn them."

Despite Fazzino's enthusiasm for home schooling now, the decision itself and the transition weren't easy. Her son adjusted quickly to being at home — at school, he would "get a little lost in the classroom," Fazzino said, which caused anxiety — but her daughter, who loved "being part of the thick of it" at school, found the transition harder.

Fazzino also worried about the responsibility she was taking on for their education. How would she know she's doing it right?

"It is a fearful thing," she said. "It's a bold move to say, 'I'm going to home-school.' You get kind of funny looks when you say you're home-schooling. People think it's fringe ... or they think, 'What are you, crazy? How do you know what to do?'"

For a single mother like Fazzino, home schooling also is a sacrifice in terms of personal time, she said. Other parents who stay at home to oversee their child's education said it requires finding a healthy balance for both child and parent.

For her part, Fazzino has been assured by support from a tight-knit network of local home-schooling families and the vast number of resources available. She can list off the programs she wants her children to enroll in but which they haven't had the time to take advantage of, from Rock-It Science, a Santa Clara nonprofit that offers hands-on science classes in labs (and has a dedicated home-school program), to Wild Child Free School, an outdoor nature program for home-schooled students.

Local organizations such as the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo, QuantumCamp (which offers laboratory math and science classes in Palo Alto) and Los Altos Hills farm Hidden Villa also offer programs that home-schoolers can take. In addition to after-school classes open to anyone, numerous programs have sprung up that are specifically for home-schoolers.

Older home-schooled students can also take classes and get college credit at local community colleges like De Anza and Foothill College. (Foothill said 70 home-schooled students enrolled this fall. The college recently launched a dedicated home-schooling webpage and held a well-attended open house for students and parents in September.)

"It's like drinking from a firehose," Fazzino said.

All home-schoolers are subject to legal regulation in some form in California. Fazzino, for example, enrolled her kids in Bear Hollow School, a private school run by a friend in Palo Alto. The school files paperwork on the family's behalf with the state and also helps Fazzino with curriculum, lesson planning and goal-setting.

The biggest misperception about home schooling, Fazzino and other parents say, is that their children lack socialization. Home-schoolers argue that their children are, in fact, better socialized and more well-rounded because they interact with people of all ages and in different settings, compared to spending most of their time in a classroom with peers and a single adult.

Home-schooled students also spend time with each other. Numerous home-schooling groups in the area organize meetups, park days, field trips and other activities. Extremely active home-school email lists also span cities and age groups. (Parents say that when they post a question, they almost instantaneously get more responses and suggestions than they even need.) Many families also work together to host a class or tutor at their house for groups of students.

Matthew and Julia are also still close with friends from their usual communities: Walter Hays, their neighborhood and church. Spending more time with their mother also has created stronger family bonds, Fazzino said.

She speculated that the internet has vastly expanded the home-schooling landscape, making it easier for more families to try their hand at an alternative form of education.

"I think 20 years ago it probably was harder. It probably truly was fringe," Fazzino said.

Despite this, she still feels some stigma attached to home schooling. She urged other parents who might be considering at-home education to not be held back by doubts.

"It never hurts to try," she said. "It's exciting to try to light those fires and be the one doing that with your children."

The Bayers

For the Bayers, it was a rich — and unique — home life, combined with public schools' inflexible schedules, that propelled them to home-school.

The Bayer family is part of Magic, a shared service-learning community in Palo Alto run by resident fellows who have degrees in engineering, biology, history and law.

"In a typical night here, someone may be telling the story of their recent trip to Bhutan or talking about how they built this electric go-cart and made a generator," the twins' mother Robin Bayer said. "We thought that was a very rich opportunity for them to learn in."

When the twins were in first grade at Escondido Elementary School, Bayer questioned whether hours-long school days were the best and healthiest way to learn, particularly when a community of built-in teachers awaited them at home.

Like many other families in the area, the Bayers enrolled in Ocean Grove, an accredited public charter school that provides credentialed teachers, academic support, stipends and other services to home-schooling families.

Ocean Grove families sign education agreements that map out students' goals and report their progress to a credentialed educational specialist who visits their home. Parents can decide how much they want the specialist to be involved, from providing actual instruction or grading assignments to a more hands-off monthly check-in.

A family with a penchant for inquiry and self-directed learning, the Bayers opted for the latter. Over the years, the twins and their younger brother, who is now 13 years old and has never attended traditional school, learned from a variety of sources, including Bayer, other adults living in Magic and outside programs. The Magic resident fellows have all been closely involved in their education, which remains a standing agenda item on a weekly meeting with all four adults. Bayer has mostly overseen science and math instruction, while other Magic residents helped with topics like music, history, writing and computer science.

For both girls, the freedom to follow their own interests, at their own pace, has been a hallmark of their education. Hilary Bayer recalled picking out a Singapore Math textbook when she was young and making her way through every single book in the series, simply because she wanted to. Later, she took two online classes from Harvard University, one on the impact of climate change on global human health and another on computer science.

Even family trips to a neighbor's cabin in the Sierra Nevada turned into learning experiences. Hilary Bayer took photos of flowers, looked them up later and added them to a photo album with labels. They learned how to read topographic maps to navigate between two lakes that weren't connected by a trail.

"I remember a lot of fear in my education," Robin Bayer said. With a test, "I was nervous and I had to learn it by then. They take the test when they're ready and take it again if they don't pass it."

As the twins have gotten older, Bayer and the other adults' direct involvement has lessened. Each quarter, the twins write life plans with their short- and long-term goals. Each day, the girls record what they've worked on, go over it with an adult in the evening and adjust if necessary to continue working toward their goals. This provides discipline and focus to an unstructured way of learning, their mother said. At a monthly meeting with their Ocean Grove teacher, they also talk about work they've completed and show samples, which the teacher documents.

"It's a real privilege to have this much freedom in your life where you don't have to be somewhere at a certain time and you don't have to do what the teacher says," Bayer said. "You've got to earn that."

The biggest challenge of home schooling, both mother and daughters said, is ironically a function of this freedom: simply staying on track.

"The challenges are letting them find their own way and avoiding panicking by comparing them to their peers, who are in a different environment and many times accountable in different ways," Bayer said.

While Jen Bayer said she sometimes feels "socially isolated" from people of her own age, she prefers interacting with adults. When the twins were 14, they thought about going to a high school, but the freedom and flexibility they have outweighed any social appeal, they said.

As seniors, Jen and Hilary Bayer are now facing a different kind of challenge: how to apply to college as home-schoolers, given the numerous requirements.

Though Ocean Grove provides accredited transcripts, the documents don't fully capture the work the twins have done, so they've decided to develop their own. For each conventional subject, they'll describe relevant courses, activities and projects, their overall goals and how they met them.

Stanford, as one example, does not have a separate application for home-schoolers but rather guidelines that ask students to submit a detailed description of how and why their family chose alternative education, how their learning process was organized and what choices they had to make to pursue this form of education.

"We are interested in how you have gone about the learning process, not how many courses you have completed," states a Stanford admissions webpage on home schooling.

Home-schoolers who want to apply to University of California schools are subject to the same admission requirements as any other student, as long as the courses they've taken meet the state's A-G requirements and they have an official high school transcript and diploma. Students who don't meet that criteria can still apply to the UCs with SAT and ACT scores, according to a UC admissions webpage.

Other private universities have special programs for home-schooled applicants, said Cynthia Rachel, director of education support services for Ocean Grove. Brigham Young University, for example, reserves 5 percent of its freshman class for those students, she said.

Unlike their Palo Alto peers, however, the Bayer twins are in no rush to get to college. Jen Bayer wants to study more biology, and Hilary Bayer, calculus. Both want to get further on a Barcode of Life project they've been working on for months, using DNA-sequencing data to document biodiversity in the area. So they've decided, for now, to defer applying to college until next fall.

As she raised her daughters, Bayer worked to combat the cultural assumption that teenagers need to go straight to college from high school. Home schooling allows them the rare freedom to think about what they want to do in college and why.

"That's part of the beauty of it," Bayer said. "They can take the time to learn what they want to learn and feel prepared."

The O'Neils

Katrina O'Neil and her husband are in the midst of their own home-schooling experiment, testing the waters with a son who struggled in traditional school.

Ironically, the family moved to Palo Alto from Mountain View in 2012 for the public schools. They enrolled their son, Kirill, at Hoover Elementary School and planned to do the same for their daughter, who was about to be born.

Kindergarten went well, O'Neil said, but on the first day of first grade, Kirill started having behavioral problems.

For the next year and a half, Kirill struggled in school and at home. He had nightmares and wouldn't sleep well. He had a hard time making friends. A self-directed learner, he was often bored in class but also had problems with writing, his mother said.

He was eventually diagnosed as gifted but with anxiety and disorders in sleep, developmental coordination (fine-motor skills) and visual processing. The school and a psychologist also suspected he might be on the autism spectrum, but he has not been formally diagnosed, O'Neil said.

Early on, the psychologist advised that they home-school Kirill. It felt like a radical suggestion for two parents who were working full time and had both successfully gone through traditional schooling themselves. Also, Kirill himself didn't want to leave an established structure, O'Neil said.

"Everybody always told him, 'If you want to grow up and be a real person, you have to go to school and go to university and in order to go to university you have to go to school.' (The idea) was sort of ingrained by us," O'Neil said.

They considered local private and alternative options, like The Nueva School in Hillsborough and AltSchool in Palo Alto, but realized that, while these kind of schools might address Kirill's giftedness, other elements of school would continue to be challenging.

After about a year and a half, things reached a breaking point, O'Neil said, and home schooling started to seem like the best option. But someone would have to stay home with Kirill.

O'Neil told her boss at HP, where she had worked as a software security researcher for more than 13 years, that she would have to quit. She was instead offered a year-long leave of absence, which she's currently on.

Several months in, Kirill is a happier, healthier learner, his mother said. He likes to immerse himself in a single topic for months — recently, it was Greek mythology and before that, astronomy — and home schooling allows for that, with some guidance from his mother to make sure he's making necessary progress. With no set schedule, she can take Kirill to science lectures in the evening without worrying about getting up early the next morning for school.

"Somehow we found this happy medium. We do a little bit of everything and just leave a lot of time for his own interests," she said.

Kirill is enrolled in Ocean Grove. O'Neil is especially appreciative of the special-education services Kirill receives — occupational and speech therapy — which she said are more extensive than what the Palo Alto school district offered.

O'Neil is Kirill's primary teacher, overseeing his work in math, English language arts and social studies. They often do that work at a cafe together. Kirill's avid interest in science means she can let him have free reign on that subject. He watches movies, reads books and does his own research, O'Neil said.

He also now has the time to take an online chemistry course in Russian from Moscow State University, meeting both science and language requirements. O'Neil is from Russia and wants her children to learn the language.

"The flexible schedule allows us to dive deeper into (his) interests and do things we just couldn't do before just because of the lack of time, or it makes it easier to do them," O'Neil said.

He's also more calm, O'Neil said. Being in school for six hours a day was overwhelming and draining for him.

For socialization, Kirill goes to Rock-It Science and the Wild Child nature program. He's finally on his way to making friends, his mother said — a real measure of the progress he's made.

O'Neil said that while this is right for her son, home schooling is an incredibly personal decision. It's not for everyone — including her own daughter, who still attends Hoover and is thriving.

"I knew home schooling existed a year and a half ago, but I didn't know what it really meant. Now I know that everyone does it differently," O'Neil said. "It's just one term but it means all sorts of different things."

Looming on the horizon is the decision the family needs to make when O'Neil's sabbatical ends. While most home-schooling families have one parent who stays at home, O'Neil knows some with two parents working full time.

"Everything is possible," she said. "You just have to really, really want it."

WATCH "Behind the Headlines" for a discussion with mother Robin Bayer and Weekly journalists on this topic.

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Comments

17 people like this
Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2017 at 9:08 am

Ocean Grove is a great, flexible, homeschooling option for families in Palo Alto. As the article illustrates, kids can learn by pursuing topics that truly interest them and learn at their own pace and in their own fashion. The educational specialists are supportive, and help keep families on track every month, and the school really takes care of the California state requirements and technicalities to make homeschooling viable for families.


15 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2017 at 9:32 am

Wow, thanks for the detailed, accurate, and informative article about local homeschooling!

The discussion about the term "homeschooling" needing an upgrade comes up a lot. One if my groups has decided to try "indie-schooling" whenever possible. Which us interesting becausecabout half the time, people already know what we mean by it, the other half, they ask, and I can explain our form of "homeschooling".

We homeschool through another school district that allows the students to take up to two classes at the school (four with permission), under the guidance of an experienced independent-study district teacher. Wish we could do that here! It might solve some crowding issues as well as stress and individualization needs for high schoolers. The transition can be disconcerting if people don't know to "deschool" a bit first. But overall it could be a really positive program to adopt, and could be done under existing policies and rules.

Having the ability to be closer as a family, learn to live in the real world, pursue individual interests - definitely resonate. Wow, thanks again!


11 people like this
Posted by Former Homeschooling Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

This is an excellent article! It accurately reflects the dynamic, well-educated, enthusiastic, supportive community we found during our years of homeschooling. Our gifted child ultimately had an excellent transition into public middle school, and benefitted enormously during the elementary years from time spent exploring personal passions at great depth, a la carte schooling (Academic Antics, Quantum Camp, Rock-it Science), spending entire days each week in nature - rain or shine (Riekes Nature Awareness, Wild Child), and more. Thanks to the Palo Alto Weekly for offering a comprehensive look into the modern homeschooling/out-schooling world. It's a legitimate and exciting option for Bay Area families.


16 people like this
Posted by a parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2017 at 11:20 am

Homeschooling has been so helpful for my dyslexic children, who were devastated by the Palo Alto school system.My kids, like many dyslexics, are extremely bright (as documented on psycho-educational testing), yet feel stupid and incapable. REcent data released by the PAUSD school district show that less than half of children on IEPS are at benchmark, which is astounding, especially given that many are quite smart. yet the district continues to do nothing in terms of early identification and appropriate intervention. Homeschooling, which has allowed my kids to leave the toxic, stress-filled PAUSD environment, and also receive appropriate intervention, is the right fit for them right now, and, as the article discusses, there are so many wonderful educational resources online and in the area.


14 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow Dad
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 15, 2017 at 11:42 am

I had to laugh....

"For many Palo Alto families who opt to home-school their children, the term is a misnomer for what their children's education looks like. Their experiences disprove the often-held misconception of a parent teaching a child at the kitchen table all day."

(picture in the article is...parent teaching children at the kitchen table)


4 people like this
Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2017 at 11:56 am

@a parent,

It can be helpful for parents to read about "twice exceptional" gifted kids who often have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Your kids sound gifted in this way. It is not uncommon for giftedness to coincide with one or more learning disabilities, or traits such as overexcitability. Homeschooling can help kids who need extra time with certain subjects--though are definitely bright--and help sustain their self-esteem as learners. On the flip side, homeschooling can also enable gifted kids to move through academics at a faster speed than in "regular" school. I'm aware that dyslexics can work swiftly in areas where non-dyslexics are slow(er). My sense is that homeschooling is a more accommodating option for gifted and twice-exceptional gifted kids in Palo Alto. The public school district here really does not accommodate gifted students.


15 people like this
Posted by scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 15, 2017 at 12:20 pm

I've come to the conclusion that it's really hard for schools to support giftedness, and the problems are deeply structural. The kids often can excel in a lot of ways, but resist producing work except in contexts that are very personal to them. Meanwhile, teachers are in this framework where they have to grade, and they need work to do that. And realistically: how can you make teaching to asynchronously developing kids scale to a full classroom?

Complicating things even further is a sort of politics: every parent wants their kid in any gifted program that is available, so there's this gravity toward turning any such thing into a high-achievement group. I was talking with a friend about this recently: he was initially placed into a gifted program and was skipping ahead in areas class, but fell behind in other areas. That's normal for gifted kids, mind you. He got kicked out. Whatever that program had started out as, it had long since been hijacked into a track schooling thing.

It might help if we pathologized giftedness a bit.


5 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

Very interesting article. I was pleased to see some prejudices I held disproved; i.e., people home school for religious reasons so that their child won't get sex education or some other sort of education they disapprove of.


4 people like this
Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2017 at 12:58 pm

@Fairmeadow Dad,

It seems like one of the pictures is of a parent at the kitchen table with kids. The picture that is most prominently featured is of kids of different ages learning together. It's interesting how there isn't an adult leading the way all the time. This type of learning will actually take time for many kids to develop. Many kids who begin to homeschool will probably need months to adjust to a type of learning that doesn't center around an adult authority figure telling them what to do. This is probably one of the most difficult adjustments to learning when switching from a "regular" school setting to homeschooling. The up side, later on, is seeing kids who take more initiative with their learning and are more independent learners. Most homeschooled kids probably have a combination of learning on their own as well as from adults (including parents). Given the number of highly educated parents in Palo Alto, we shouldn't be surprised that parents have the educational background and expertise to teach their kids.


5 people like this
Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2017 at 1:18 pm

It is lovely to see how accepting Stanford is of home schooled children. I know of several home schoolers who are thriving there as undergrads.

I expect we will see more and more parents choose this option.


8 people like this
Posted by Bobo Smithson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Ocean Grove in Palo Alto is not homeschooling. It is public/government-run charter schooling. Therefore, it is government schooling at home. The state is still - ultimately - in control of the child's education and takes your neighbors' tax dollars to do it. Mom and Dad are free teachers, doing the work without getting paid by the government.


3 people like this
Posted by Jason Thornton
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 15, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Informative and fair to home educators and their families, is this article. It leaves out one very important reason for the growth in home-based education. Homeschooling is the last test of real freedom in educating/indoctrinating children. Yes, public/government schools indoctrinate children just as do private schools and homeschooling. Be honest about this. Also, keep in mind that it was Hitler and his type who controlled and eventually banned homeschooling in Germany (check it out for yourself). For solid research on home education go to www.nheri.org


16 people like this
Posted by Inde-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Hi Bobo Smithson. You wrote "Ocean Grove in Palo Alto is not homeschooling. It is public/government-run charter schooling. Therefore, it is government schooling at home. The state is still - ultimately - in control of the child's education and takes your neighbors' tax dollars to do it. Mom and Dad are free teachers, doing the work without getting paid by the government."

You bring up some interesting points, and I will try to unpack them, because right now, this educational landscape is changing, which is the point of the title and much of the article.

Homeschooling got its name mainly because of people who wanted to educate away from the schools, at home, often for religious or ideological reasons. But things are changing. Even among relatives in the South who are religious homeschoolers (not, by the way, to teach weird unscientific approaches to biology, but to be able to live everyday without having to suppress their faith in their lives), they are really taking advantage of the new "ala carte" schooling approach and other educational advantages made possible by computer knowledge environments.

Ocean Grove IS homeschooling in the current sense, in that children do not have any compulsory attendance at the local school, and the courses they take are up to the families, the school doesn't decide for them. Because it is a public charter, there are more rules than for families who file private school affidavits (PSA's). But that's the realistic trade off we currently have in our system: freedom versus funding.

We aren't with Ocean Grove, we homeschool through another public district. Having a public school teacher who knows how to design a course with us, using the best of whatever resources we can find for our child's individual needs, has been the best of both worlds. We do not get the funds that OG gets, though. Yes, I do wish I was not having to pay for two children to go to PAUSD with our property taxes when we cannot afford to spend half of that for our own child's "homestudies", but we wouldn't trade the freedom, the restoration of our family closeness, the light coming back into our child's eyes, the health benefits, and the chance for such breadth in self-directed learning. Standardized test scores are even way up even though our child takes almost no traditional tests during the year.

So, a better term might be "indie-schooling" than homeschooling. In fact, the recent 2016 data on homeschooling used a question that overtly excluded most of these ala carte schoolers: It asked whether students were homeschooling, then defined homeschooling as anyone not taking any courses at all at a public or private school. This would eliminate practically everyone in my child's "homeschool" program, and most people on my local homeschooling communities, in fact, during a recent standardized test, our child had no way to check "homeschooled" because of the way they asked the question just like that. The USDOE is aware of the problem and is redesigning their question (according to an email I received). This is important, because the biggest growth in "homeschooling" appears to be among the indie-schooled, many of whom could not check 'yes' to homeschooling on the surveys.

The other point is that there is no either/or here with public or homeschooling, at least for people who want to indie-school for the educational benefits. Most people I know would love to partner with their local public district, as we would love to partner with PAUSD. To the extent that some local student resources come from the City, though, I hope this article helps the powers that be consider being more inclusive of ALL students. The City, not the schools, for example, supplies middle school sports opportunities. These should be made equally open and available to homeschoolers.



9 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Other public charters/homestudies programs available in Santa Clara County, not already mentioned in the article:

Valley View Charter Prep (my understanding is that high schoolers often prefer this to Ocean Grove because they can choose a less constrained path if they wish). VV does not currently have enough students in SC County to justify an education specialist, but would hire one with greater enrollment. (Speaking to those on the Ocean Grove waitlist.)

Connecting Waters and Connecting Waters East Bay. I believe the CWEB has a physical location that can be used for some classes, but it's in the East Bay. Nevertheless, the program sends education specialists to the family, families do not have to go there.

COIL in the Fremont district, and SJUSD Homestudies, accept transfer students from other districts. I have friends who homeschooled through COIL but lived in Redwood City.

The crazy thing is that there may well be others. I just learned about Valley View Charter Prep a few months ago, even though I started investigating homeschool opportunities locally several years ago. There is no central clearinghouse with all the info and with the nitty gritty details of every one.

Thanks to Elena Kadvany for a well-researched and beautifully written story. It's nice to see an accurate portrayal in the media.


6 people like this
Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2017 at 4:46 pm

@Bobo,

You are correct: charter schools like Ocean Grove are California public schools. Ocean Grove (like PAUSD) is a public school. This is not a bad thing. For example, many people think homeschoolers are religious types who want a religious curriculum. But, being a public school, Ocean Grove does not allow students to use their instructional funds for religious courses, materials, etc.

Being a public charter school, Ocean Grove also has "educational specialists" (ES) with California state teaching credentials who are familiar with state requirements and standards. This is a good, if not great, thing. Students meet with their assigned ES each month. The ES ensures that a student is meeting state requirements even as that student is using their own chosen textbooks, courses, etc. far different from those in regular public school.

Being a California public charter school, Ocean Grove also sets up annual CAASPP testing for students. While students don't have to spend their school year focused on test taking--nor gear their learning for standardized tests--it is convenient that Ocean Grove provides the test sites, technology, and supervision for such testing. Very convenient.

With Ocean Grove, "Mom and Dad" don't have to be the teachers. Ocean Grove has over 1,000 vendors, and many of these vendors can teach your kid(s) for you. Some of the top (online) math instructors--those who trained for the math olympiads (or who continue to train kids for the math olympiads)--can teach your kids math. Starting in middle school, the instructors at local community colleges (Foothill, DeAnza, etc.)--many of whom have advanced degrees, if not PhDs--can teach your kids. Of course, "Mom and Dad" can teach their kids, but most won't do all, or any, of the teaching. And this is partly because homeschooling enables a lot of kids to start learning on their own and teaching themselves.

When my kid was in regular public school here, they (using the gender neutral) had to sleep by a certain time, in order to wake up by a certain time, in order to be at school by a certain time. When my kid was in regular school here, they could only have breaks at set times, and the curriculum was chosen for them. On an everyday level, there was far more control over my kid's time/life. That other "government-run" school here, PAUSD, felt far more controlling of my kid's schedule, reading, and other learning materials. With Ocean Grove--still, yes, a state public school--everyday life feels vastly freer. My kid can sleep when they want and get up when they want. They can choose what books they want to read. They can choose what they want to eat for lunch. My kid never bothers thinking about state testing, but, with greater curricular freedom, their test scores are higher now than when they were in PAUSD--and those scores were pretty high back then.



12 people like this
Posted by PAmom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2017 at 4:56 pm

We home schooled our son for a year in middle school. He was also assessed by the district as both gifted and learning disabled. Another thing the article doesn't address is that, at least in our time, Jordan allowed hime to take electives there in things he loved, which was wonderful for him. They also allowed him to graduated from there with the rest of his class in their commencement exercises. Don't know if they'd allow those things now, but it's worth finding out.

Another thing the article doesn't address is the need for kids to "decompress" after leaving the public school system. There is a certain amount of brainwashing that some people believe the kids are subjected to in the public schools, and home schooling allows them to unlearn that and find the essence of their true selves.

Yet another thing the article doesn't address is the myth that kids need to be formally "schooling" for 6-7 hours a day to learn the same things public school students do. A lot of that time is spent moving large groups of kids around, especially after elementary school, and directing them from one activity to another. A homeschooler doesn't need all that extra time to do the same things. So they have more time to relax. I love how homeschoolers have the flexibility to pursue the things they truly love. There are so many learning opportunities in everyday life to be taken advantage of, like the article points out. Great article!


7 people like this
Posted by Stephanie Hood
a resident of another community
on Dec 15, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Great article! The teen tutor pictured in the lead photo is a former student of mine from Live Oak Academy in Santa Clara! LOA is a support program for homeschooling families. For anyone wanting to explore your options regarding homeschooling, I'd love to talk to you. I am a volunteer with Gifted Homeschoolers Forum and The Homeschool Association of California. The largest local homeschool online communities are San Jose Homeschool Facebook Group, and Bay Area Homeschool Field Trips Yahoogroup. All interested parents are welcome to join. Another great resource is Peach Blossom School PSP website. Disclaimer, I am the Director.


8 people like this
Posted by a parent
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 15, 2017 at 6:54 pm

I can't imagine these days PAUSD allowing homeschoolers to take some classes at public middle school. As parents of special ed children, who are now homeschooling, the response we've received from the district on many occasions has been completely adversarial and non-collaborative. That must have been from a different era- perhaps pre-Holly Wade (who is now, thankfully, gone).


17 people like this
Posted by Linda Griffin
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm

Wonderful article! We started homeschooling in 2000 for reasons very similar to the O'Neils. We could have almost replaced Krill's name with our son's - the stories were so similar. Homeschooling was not our original plan but looking back I feel very grateful and fortunate that we were steered in that direction by our older son. Homeschooling allowed our children the freedom to be themselves and the time to explore their interests. My older son is now in graduate school and our younger is graduating from college this spring. They are both happy and busy pursuing their dreams.


7 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 15, 2017 at 8:12 pm

Child development experts, educators, and psychologists are concerned about the growing population of indie/home schoolers in some privileged communities, especially among students who have learning disabilities or behavioral issues. Preparing 21st century students to be global citizens requires students to master skills demonstrated in collaboration with others : cooperation, communication, critical thinking, creativity, character, connectivity..... Practice begins in nursery school in the mud, continues in elementary school on the playground, during class meetings, and in middle and high school on student government, in the gym, in the worst class at the school taught by the worst teacher in the town. Forgetting your lunch, ripping your pants, figuring out how to retake a test when you forgot to study for it the first time, writing for the school newspaper, developing a semester long play to present in theater class with practice after school for months, group project after group project after group project... schools provide the milieu for students to learn these critical skills. Students who spend their days getting by-- succeeding sometimes and failing many others--- are learning the life lessons critical in our global society. If instead they spend their 13 years in safe bubbles of parent- curated and parent directed classes and agendas, they are missing out on invaluable life experiences. While the opportunities for a specialized and extraordinary indie school program abound here in Silicon Valley, the community should ask itself how and if they are preparing their children for the rigors of adulthood--- committed, active, generous, collaborative members of a global world. Yes of course home schooled students in college do fine. But what about in life??


18 people like this
Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2017 at 10:16 pm

@Concerned,

You mention child development experts, so I would recommend reading the work of Gabor Mate and and Gordon Neufeld, Canadian doctors who wrote a book called Hold On to Your Kids. They write of the "peer culture" kids have at school and its negative effects: depression, bullying, self-harm, addiction, and so on (these are issues that have plagued PAUSD). Mate is an addiction specialist. You can quickly find Mate's and Neufeld's talks and interviews on Youtube.

I don't think parents create a "safe bubble" or a "parent-curated" or a "parent-directed" world for their homeschooled kids, as a whole. (Perhaps the deeply religious homeschoolers, though, and they are not the majority of homeschoolers.) Ask many who left "safe" school districts like PAUSD for the wild unknowns of homeschooling. When you leave a district like PAUSD, with its reputation for being a great school district, you will be seen--and perhaps will feel--as if you are doing something un-safe. You take a risk. And you teach your children to take risks. You teach your children to not rely on the safety of institutional reputations and brand names. A diploma from Ocean Grove (a virtually unknown and fringe-seeming school to most people) does not seem as "safe" as a diploma from Palo Alto High or Gunn High or Harker. In your post, you seem to focus a lot on the issue of "grit," of developing grit. It takes a lot of grit to take on an educational path that is not laid out for you. This is, perhaps, one of the top reasons why most families find the idea of homeschooling scary.

My kid has taken (online) math classes that would be much, much harder to take in a regular school with competing homework assignments. This is because some of the math problems can take days to solve, and the kids can work collaboratively with each other and an online instructor to figure out how to solve the difficult problems without being handed the answer. It's this sort of struggle--learning to struggle yet stay with a problem you want to solve--that I think most kids will not--or never--encounter in regular school. For us, this could only happen because of homeschooling and the time it allows for this sort of arduous learning. And, yes, sometimes my kid fails. But, yes, my kid learns to bounce back. This is truly one way in which my kid has developed "grit" while also working in collaboration with other kids (from around the country and around the world) and an adult who helps them out without entirely rescuing them.

You seem to perceive homeschooled kids as isolated, but most are not. In a typical week, my kid takes a class one evening with kids from different schools, and then, the next evening, takes a class with adults working in different fields (or retired). It's something of an outdated myth that homeschooled kids don't socialize.



16 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Hi Concerned in Barron Park! You wrote, "If instead they spend their 13 years in safe bubbles of parent- curated and parent directed classes and agendas, they are missing out on invaluable life experiences."

One of the most commonly cited advantaged of homeschooling that I have heard and experienced is that kids can start living and learning in the real world rather than spending 13 years in safe bubbles of *school-curated and directed* classes and agendas. Homeschooling/indie-schooling typically is about making education = life experience.

Ours started homeschooling later, so transitioned from school to homeschool. One of the most striking realizations was the extent to which school had caused a real dependence on external direction. We all realized what a mess our child would have been going off into the world like that.

Homeschooling means a student who takes far more responsibility because there is just more time and autonomy. When we decided to do this, one of the first steps was to understand that the journey was going to be messy and imperfect, but it was part of the learning and life.

Which "Child development experts, educators, and psychologists are concerned"? They should probably learn more about what this is first! (Then be concerned for the kids in school, whose independence seems to hinge on a fad of breaking the family bonds and almost estranging teens from parents.) When students can make their own choices at that age because of the autonomy they get from homeschooling, the relationship seems much healthier with adults, there doesn't seem to be this stratification of age groups you find in schools. This is probably way healthier for society.

Our child has been able to become a whole person in a way that wouldn't have been possible in school, developing more broad life skills. Instead of taking a life skill's class, it's possible to actually do things like cooking for oneself daily; there was no time to do because of all the structure of school.

There is a segment of homeschoolers called "unschoolers" who are on the far end of the autonomy spectrum. The kids basically follow their own self-directed path. They turn out just fine, and tend to follow more creative paths in life. The reason they do fine and are happier in life is the same reason they do well in college: they learn to be in charge of themselves through homeschooling in a way they aren't allowed in traditional schools. It mystifies me that you would think this would translate to college but not to life.

I hear a lot of employers complaining about employees who can't think for themselves and expect to be told what to do. Homeschooling has been the antidote to that in the kids I've seen.

Web Link
This KQED Mindshift article looking at unschoolers (the lead constrained end of the homeschooling spectrum) shows that on the contrary, kids aren't living in a bubble. As the article points out, one of the greatest difficulties for these kids happens to be "dealing with others’ judgments", but the majority said:

"“the experience enabled them to develop as highly self-motivated, self-directed individuals ... having a broader range of learning opportunities; a richer, age-mixed social life; and a relatively seamless transition to adult life"

Our child has had all those experiences and many, many more, because homeschooling allows going beyond the walls of school, preparing our child far, far better to be a global citizen than anything possible in school. (We would love partnerships, but would never go back.)




11 people like this
Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 15, 2017 at 11:02 pm

eileen is a registered user.

My son is now at Harvard in his third year of a PhD program in Cultural Anthropology. After getting many F's at Palo Alto High School he decided to take the High School Equivalency Diploma at 16. At 18 he went to UCSC for a film degree and then spent five years in Vietnam, Nepal and NY, teaching, writing and as a director of a media arts collective in Katmandu,Nepal, I wanted to homeschool but both my husband and I had to work full time! Getting out of this area and going to other countries rich and poor, was the best education for him!


17 people like this
Posted by PAmom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2017 at 11:08 pm

Concerned,

I thought of responding 1st but decided to hold off and let others. The comments about judging summed it up nicely. It's important to keep an open mind about schooling, and to not insist that there is only one way to do it. School is not a one size fits all thing, so let's get away from one-track thinking and avoid making assumptions. I think you mentioned the need to develop good critical thinking skills, so that same concept applies here.


12 people like this
Posted by A PALY Senior Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 15, 2017 at 11:52 pm

Thank you, Elena for another great article!

My daughter went through PAUSD from kindergarten to now senior. All 13 years! I am here to say that PAUSD is definitely NOT for gifted students. All they do are holding students back in the name of equity.

Not only the district could not provide personalized learning for individual students, the so called "differentiation within the class" is just a pretty slogan that cannot be implemented.

Since most of the measure A money and extra property tax income went to the teachers' salary increase, the class size has remained so big that one teacher has to deal with 25-30+ students with various abilities. Kids acting up in over-crowded classrooms that was designed for 15-20 students. No teacher has the ability to differentiate within class in an environment like this. Only very very few teachers are willing to spend extra time after class to provide differentiated materials to students in need.

(By the way, the same percentage salary increase meant younger new teachers who cannot afford housing around PA only get a couple thousand dollars more a year - still cannot afford housing at PA. Most money went to the high pay teachers who already own houses.)

Had we known so many resources are out there for homeschoolers, we might have provided my daughter a better education. And, no need to deal with the bureaucracy of the schools and the district.


12 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2017 at 3:00 am

Hi PALY Senior Mom - it took us a long time to find the right resources, finding them remains a major effort for many homeschoolers.


Hi Concerned,
Since you cared enough to write such a detailed post, let's talk on the level of your specific examples, because you seem to understand school pretty well but have no practical knowledge of indie-schooling/homeschooling. I hope this will help allay some of your concerns.

First, while there are very few studies of homeschooling and testing, the largest and most comprehensive have found that there is virtually no gender or achievement gap among homeschoolers, and that students whose parents were not educated fared nearly as well as those who were. It makes sense that customizing children’s education would eliminate the consequences of institutional biases.

Institutions could see the same benefits by learning how to give students more true autonomy in learning. This can’t happen in a system that currently has almost no boundaries between school and home life (excessive school-initiated homework and a lack of power by families to enforce any healthy boundaries between school and home). Having power over their own educations and choices, for students who would otherwise lose their opportunities because of such institutional consequences, is a holy grail of education, not a “bubble”. The ability to become self-directed, in all its imperfect messiness, is opportunity and equality.


21 people like this
Posted by Indie-Schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2017 at 4:34 am

PS to Concerned,
Hi Concerned,

Homeschoolers tend to spend more time in the “real world”, not sitting at home or in a classroom. The better outcomes for many is because of self-direction and autonomy, not because of being in “bubbles”. I hope you can appreciate that learning does not have to be relentlessly unpleasant or part of some curriculum to be valuable, “real world”, or advanced.

One of the things parents above talk about, the transition period between school and homeschool, is because most everyone coming from traditional school, kids and adults, feels really unsettled when the kids aren’t being told or funneled into what to do all the time the way school does. Colleges can tell the difference, self-direction and engagement tends to be a pretty important trait not just in college but also in independent adult life.

I’m just confused about what you think homeschooling is that you believe they don’t rip their pants, play in the mud, forget their lunches (and much else), or take tests. The difference is purpose, not perfection.

Not letting school forever destroy that spark in my child’s eyes was reason enough to homeschool. I wish things could have worked with our schools, but under the circumstances, I wish we had left earlier.


15 people like this
Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2017 at 9:05 am

This comment by Indie-Schooling is the most important factor in deciding what is best for a child as far as I am concerned:


"Not letting school forever destroy that spark in my child’s eyes was reason enough to homeschool. I wish things could have worked with our schools, but under the circumstances, I wish we had left earlier. "

My children's intellectual curiosity and their ability to develop their interests and talents and strengths will always be more important than my child's ability and willingness to conform to homogenized school curriculum.

Steven Covey reminds us to begin with he end in mind. Think about what a traditional school brings to your child. If your child can grow and thrive in that environment, you are a fortunate person. If a traditional school environment presents a constant struggle for your family, then thankfully there are viable alternatives today that allow our children to get a rigorous education outside of traditional schoolrooms.
The biggest lie schools tell is that they instill a love of learning. Children come pre-programmed with a love of learning. Our job is to ensure that our students continue to love learning and develop the qualities they will need to thrive in our society.


5 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2017 at 9:09 am

@Indie-Schooling -- what is the name of the other district that allows kids to enroll in 2-4 courses? We need this kind of flexibility in PAUSD. If enough parents spoke up, it could happen.


8 people like this
Posted by Indei-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2017 at 10:59 am

Hi Question,
The districts all mentioned in the article allow some relationship with the district. The reporter could probably give you more information than I could if you write a note. There is unfortunately no central clearinghouse of information.

Fremont district has a homeschool program called COIL which is a district charter. It has its own location so that district students especially teens can take classes together such as labs or theater, but the students are also able to take classes in their local school if they get permission. I think they have a few hundred homeschool teens but take interdistrict transfers when there is space. A friend from Redwood City homeschooled her middleschoolers there.

San Jose Unified has a homestudies program that allows students to take classes at their local school. They operate under independent study rules, so this is probably the most likely framework to do in Palo Alto. They also have their own location, but it's shared with other learning options programs, so it's not a dedicated space for program classes like COIL. The program has been operating for 30 years and was mainly begun and supported by interested parents and techies.

Cupertino's school program may be shrinking, but I hear they allow young homeschoolers to come to their local school for lunch and recess. This seems very progressive thinking to me and I know families who have kids who really need the homeschooling and super appreciate this. I don't think their program is well-advertised, though, probably the biggest reason in my opinion that their enrollment has dropped. Even my homeschool networks are perpetually confused about Cupertino's programs -- they need a parent volunteer to help with their website (all of the programs do!)

Denise Herrmann said she worked with homeschoolers taking classes at school when she was in Michigan (? or Wisconsin? I forget which state). She is at Fremont now and might be a wonderful source of wisdom for how to do those things in Palo Alto.

I think in Palo Alto, parents have tried without success, including recently. There is a big change in leadership, perhaps it might be time for others to try again. I suspect, though, that it will be like everything else here: parents who try will be given the infinite runaround, but if there is a huge donation earmarked for a program, and the person who donates the money insists on a certain level of autonomy for the program (no negative interference from the district to unnecessarily destroy what is being created), including paying for an infusion of the necessary professionals to get something running properly and work with interested students and parents, it's not going to happen.

It's easier to start something via independent study rules; the district could literally do this overnight. But a homeschool charter like COIL has could offer more opportunity in the future, especially to keep the program funded. Since it would be a homestudies charter, there wouldn't be the issue of providing whole equivalent school facilities, especially if the purpose is so that students can attend their local schools in part. This could avoid the usual arguments over charters.

PAUSD more than other districts tends to be super controlling, and the nature of homeschooling is the advantages of freedom and autonomy. A homestudies program could be a great thing for our district, a two-way benefit, but anyone setting up such a thing would have to really figure out how to insulate the program from the controlling tendencies. I think the only way is probably through a generous donation with contingencies, of which there seems to be much precedent.


11 people like this
Posted by Indie-Schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Another avenue for supporting opportunities for independent education locally is at the community colleges like Foothill. I have heard rumblings of a desire to start a middle college specifically for homeschoolers and their unique approach to education. This takes effort by people who are already making their educations from scratch, so ed innovators take note!

Foothill is creating a community maker space that will eventually become like a Tech Shop; it all depends on funding tbd. Homeschool students rely a lot on community colleges; the percentage of the population that uses community colleges (nationally, not just CA) to transfer to four-year colleges is higher than the general public. We have some of the best CC's in the country locally, and the flexibility is essential.

My homeschooler took a class that was just once a week, four hours, and all homework and deadlines handed out the first week of class. Final was partly take-home. It was an even better education than a far more expensive class I took on the same subject at an illustrious local university, way more flexible and content-rich than a high school class.

If someone wanted to start something for Palo Alto students (and others) with the least friction and the most potential, a donation to and/or partnership with the local community colleges is probably the place to start. DeAnza and Foothill have different program offerings, but my sense is that Foothill is a little more flexible to work with on something like this, they are smaller.


12 people like this
Posted by Reluctant Homeschooler
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2017 at 2:05 pm

In response to Concerned:
I have a homeschooled child who was in public school for several years and a public schooled child. I've found that the homeschooled one is better prepared for life in general.
As a homeschooler, she is more responsible for her education. She has classes at multiple venues and is responsible for being prepared for each. Classes are generally once a week for instruction only, so she has to coordinate times to meet outside of class to study or work on group projects. She has to focus and use her time wisely since there isn't a lunch period or convenient after school time to meet if they don't get done on time. She also is working with people of different needs, abilities and ages on a regular basis. Just like in real life.
Homeschooled kids have to be more motivated in any of their classes since they aren't stuck at school moving through the classrooms as dictated by a bell system. They don't get credit for showing up, they have to be doing. They're graded on results and actual work done, not given points for cleaning up or losing points for using the restroom.
I've found that the other homeschooled kids my child interacts with are very respectful and tolerant, disabled individuals are readily accepted and their tools (Whether it's a mobility device, a tablet to record lessons, or fidgets to help focus) are not questioned or ridiculed.
I've also found that homeschooled children seem to have a better understanding of the purpose of their education. My understanding is that real life is easier for these kids than college, and while many do really well in college the biggest challenge is learning how to learn for a grade rather than because it's interesting.
Before we left the public school, I found that we were spending more time seeking out doctor's notes to document my kid's health issues and accommodation than we were teaching her how to self advocate and live life with her health issues. As a homeschooler she no longer feels ostracized or negatively singled out for reasons beyond her control. She can self regulate without being punished, she doesn't need a doctor to write out her medical history every year or to discuss it in detail with all of her teachers along with how her education has been impacted before and what may or may not work. She isn't defined by her diagnosis, and she can pursue her education even when she has setbacks.
Homeschooling in general seems a better preparation for real life than public school, and I think that's so even for "typical" kids.


8 people like this
Posted by Reluctant Homeschooler
a resident of another community
on Dec 16, 2017 at 2:16 pm

@Bobo
Ocean Grove is a publicly funded charter school which supports independent studies and homeschool like education.
In some ways it is the best of both worlds, you get funding for classes kids might not otherwise be able to take, support from accredited teachers, access to a variety of secular state approved curriculum and you can choose the best way to implement your child's education. If one math text doesn't work, you can try an online program or a different text. However, there are certain state requirements (meetings with a teacher to ensure you're actually using those resources the state pays for and that the child doesn't eneed intervention in reading or math, state testing, certain basic subjects that need to be taken) that are required.
For many families, the trade off is worth it. Some even find it reassuring to have someone else doing the paperwork adn getting test results from an outside party every year. If the trade off isn't worth it, families can file a PSA and take complete charge of thier childs education.
Ocean Grove doesn't require any specific messages be taught, they do have a list of guidelines based on state standards for each grade. But they are relatively broad and can be met by a variety of curricula.


8 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 16, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Helpful information here. Mine are in college now but wish I’d known about this when they were at Jordan and Paly; we had some rough years due to some insane teachers with expectations too high. The sleep deprivation was torturous. I actually feared my daughter was going to run to the tracks. My children have no health issues and were never bullied (a plus of being in PAUSD) but secondary school is awkward for most, and in PAUSD, with the academic rigor, it’s even more stressful.

How do colleges review homeschooled applications? How many do they accept? Do both private and public universities accept a similar amount of homeschooled students? Can’t students focus on studying for the SAT/ACT so they ace it? It seems like this could be a way for people to get to elite colleges easier than going through PAUSD where there are no choices.

Do homeschooled students lack the training of discipline, taking classes they dislike and enduring bad teachers?


9 people like this
Posted by Student
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm

I hate my home school. There is no after school time and no vacations. My mother is always making me do math at lunch and dinner. I never get to meet other kids.


8 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2017 at 7:38 pm

@Student,
Assuming you are not joking (giving you a big benefit of the doubt, since the usual expression would be "I like/hate homeschooling" not "I like/hate my home school") -- is there a reason you have to do homeschool that way? Most people who homeschool have more spare time than kids in school, and enjoy a great deal more flexibility and choice in how they do their work. We know people who decided to homeschool so they could spend two years traveling around the world. I don't know anyone who homeschools like you describe. Usually when the kids are older, if they don't like homeschooling, they go back to school.

One of the common things I hear is that homeschoolers who choose more traditional track -- basically doing what the kids do at school, but at home, which is not really what is featured in the article, but some people do that -- they realize they can polish off their work before noon and have the rest of the day off to do fun stuff. Learning how to work hard, then put the work away and take breaks, is an important life lesson in homeschooling that was never really possible for our child at school because they did not have control of (using the generic "they") their own life and work the way they do homeschooling.

Again, assuming you are not joking with a really wrong caricature of homeschooling, you need to speak with your mother and tell her what you don't want and what you want. Usually homeschoolers develop better relationships with their parents. In our case and in many of the cases I know, it is the child who asks to be homeschooled, and if that changes, they talk to their parents and change the educational situation. The whole point of homeschooling this way is that it is possible for students to be in charge of their education and lead MORE normal lives than when they were in school.

I have never met anyone in school or homeschool whose parent made them do math during meals. There is something seriously wrong there, and you should reach out within your community to find an adult who will help you speak with your parents if you have tried without success.

Hi Parent,
I'm not sure I understand your question. Homeschooling allows for choice and customizing education, it would make no sense for discipline to take the form of choosing bad classes and sitting through them day after day when they have better things to do. Usually discipline for homeschoolers takes the form of challenging themselves to do more advanced work (it's actually a common problem for them to take on too much when they get the freedom to), learning how to be productive when no one is telling them what to do all the time, and learning how to incorporate life skills and habits they wouldn't have been able to do in regular school within a challenging schedule.

Last year, my homeschooler decided to do a project (of student's initiative) in the middle of a term and put a lot of things on hold. This meant playing catchup in several advanced classes including an AP. Because of the kinds of classes possible in homeschool, our student simply had to catch up after getting several weeks behind. It was hard work and took huge discipline; if this were school, the child would have flunked out. Instead, the child worked to catch up, took the AP and did well (without having the time to study for it), and generally was less stressed than in school.

Enduring things you don't like without trying to change them when they could be changed isn't necessarily the kind of discipline I would want to teach. Making that a feature overarching the whole education seems counterproductive.


4 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Hi Novelera,
Now that's the mark of a great article "I was pleased to see some prejudices I held disproved"

Changing one's mind with more information is not something we see every day in this world. Congratulations on being a lifelong learner! (Something we all talk about a lot in homeschooling.)


3 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooler
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 17, 2017 at 12:16 am

To Parent,
Your question about college is a complex one. I hope others who have gone through the process will chime in.

I think it is both true that some colleges prefer homeschooled students because they tend to be self-directed and engaged, and that not all colleges welcome homeschoolers. The elite ones usually do.

The advantage homeschoolers have is that they tend to have more time to do advanced work and pursue diverse interests than they themselves would have otherwise. They tend to have more time to follow their passions and this tends to make them interesting to colleges. It's possible to take on work that spans years of school.

This is a generalization, but the tendency is to avoid standardized testing as much as possible. That said, my homeschoolers has higher standardized test scores than when in school, not because of studying for them, but because of having more time to read books, take far more advanced coursework, and pursue interesting subjects.

Looking for colleges is the subject of much discussion, because homeschoolers typically want to be able to remain self-directed in college and want self-directed, motivated peers. I asked my homeschoolers what characteristics were most essential in a college, and heard:
-very broad education (not just theoretically possible, but readily available)
-other students motivated to learn (not a party school)
-college fosters strong community among students

Any student who wanted to homeschool to take more time to do things the same way as in school would probably be unhappy. The advantage of homeschool is the ability to do things differently.


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Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 17, 2017 at 9:50 am

I think home schoolers have a tremendous advantage is being able to show off their academic strengths for elite universities. Home schooling takes far less time in the day and allows much more flexibility to engage in advanced work.

I believe there are college admissions counselors who specialize in home schooler applications.

Aside from Stanford, I know of a homeschooler at Dartmouth (I don't personally have a homeschooler, so my knowledge is very limited.)


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Posted by Reluctant Homeschooler
a resident of another community
on Dec 17, 2017 at 10:54 am

@ Parent
College applications vary depending on the college itself. Some are very open to homeschoolers and have a specific application process. Others are not as homeschool friendly. I have seen quite a bit of discussion on Yahoo boards about college application processes and experiences vary depending on the college itself. Students often have several community college classes to transfer which helps them to prove ability and look appealing. Some use the community college to transfer to a 4 year, which saves money as well as time.

As far as discipline goes, homeschoolers learn responsibility by following through with classes. Not all of them are what was hoped for, sometimes there are conflicts with an instructor or students. Or the class just isn't "fun". Or it may turn out to be more work than expected. But they still have taken a seat in the class and spent money on it so they are vested in completing it. The difference is that they probably want to learn the material and understand how it fits into their educational plan (not all public schoolers fully understand why they need a class they're put into for the sake of scheduling) and they probably had a say in the sign up process. On one hand, that makes it easier to deal with a challenging class situation, on the other it is a lot more like real life than a public school setting where kids are shunted to whichever elective fits even if it turns out to be one they wouldn't have picked out.


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Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm

@Student,

Based on your brief post, it's hard to determine if you are an actual student or an adult posing as a student.

Assuming you are a student . . .

The problem seems, possibly, more about your mother and her expectations than homeschooling per se. Have you voiced your objections to how she is expecting you to homeschool? If you have a father at home, what role does he play? Has your family considered counseling? I'm not sure if you are new to homeschooling, or if you have been at it for a while, but it might be useful for families to see a counselor the first year when everyone in the family is adjusting to a different educational approach that affects the family dynamics.

I am a proponent of homeschooling, obviously, but I don't believe it works for everyone--and it certainly will be problematic if there is no negotiating (and re-negotiating) allowed between parent and child about how to homeschool. As parents have noted above, some families have one kid in "regular" school and one kid who homeschools. Perhaps you are the type who would be better off in a "regular" school setting. Have you brought this possibility up with your mother and/or father? There is no reason why homeschooling itself should isolate you from other kids. Most homeschoolers regularly spend time with other kids as well as adults. Again, it seems as though your mother (and/or father) is making choices that end up isolating you. Given the particularities of your mother (and/or father), you might have a better shot at meeting other kids and making friends in a "regular" school.

For a lot of homeschooling families, one of the benefits of having a freer schedule is having pleasant meal times. As a parent, I did not like the thought of my kid at public school here--especially in winter--sitting outside eating in the cold and/or eating cold things. In contrast, it gladdens my heart to be able to prepare my kid a hot and healthy lunch, especially in winter, that I know they (using the gender neutral) will love. Like other parents, I believe homeschooling will give my kid the time to learn how to cook before heading off on their own as a young adult. Cooking is an important life skill, after all, and it is central to family, community, and health.

It seems troubling that your mother and/or father expect(s) you to do math during meal times. Although one of my kid's favorite subjects is math, they do not do work of any kind while eating. As a family, we emphasize dinner together every night. If my kid has an evening class, we eat together before or after that class. I don't know if it's just the Bay Area, or if it's the way it is everywhere now, but families are hyper aware of listing at least one sport on a college application. But a commute plus practice time often gets in the way of dinner. The issue came up for us when my kid showed promise and was encouraged to begin training for a collegiate sport. Back then, we were aware of a choice we had to make: play it safe, for the sake of college applications, and do the sport; or, take a risk and forget about sports. As I've written previously, homeschooling is not about playing it safe. We decided, as a family, to forget about sports and keep our candle-lit dinners. There are only so many years we have left together as a family. We are preparing our kid to leave us and have an independent life. The time to be together is now.

Family dinners should not be viewed as a stepping-stone to college. But, if it's that sort of reasoning that will convince your mother to let you eat dinner as a family, without work, then this talk by Laurie David might help: Web Link. Ms. David mentions how National Merit Scholars, as a group, have shown one thing in common: They eat dinner with their families at least three times a week. And there are other benefits to family dinners mentioned in the talk.

You mention math--and having no break from doing math, it seems. As I wrote previously, my kid spends a lot of time doing math each week. They used to use a well-regarded math textbook series (mentioned by another parent above), but they have switched to an online math course that is harder and more time-consuming but which they prefer. If I ask my kid about going back to the previous math curriculum, they say "No." Part of it is the online community. If you are not doing math online, would you consider an online course that will give you, at least, an online community? Stanford and Johns Hopkins offer online math courses for advanced math students, and there are other similar options online. There are also student math groups in and around Palo Alto. My kid does both, online and offline math, and enjoys the interactions with other students and teachers in both settings.

Good luck to you. Know that you should have options. Try to negotiate a better deal for yourself. Homeschooling should not be as unpleasant as you've described it to be. Consider "regular" school or switching to a homeschooling alternative that will better serve you and, ideally, your mother and/or father.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2017 at 2:46 pm

[Post removed.]



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Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2017 at 3:02 pm

@Anonymous,

"Very cocooned and cosseted and bubbled."

It seems like you haven't read the posts above very carefully. Most, if not all, of the issues you mention have been addressed in some way.

"Appears a way to avoid peers with differences (however the parent might wish, including rivals, difficult peers/teachers, those of an ethnic or religious group the mom disapproves of, etc.)"

Why target "the mom," mothers?

You assume that homeschoolers lock themselves away. Have you been to a community college lately? A lot of older homeschooled kids take classes at community college. Those student bodies are as diverse as it gets and mix up the ages/generations unlike in high school. Homeschoolers in such settings are taken out of the "bubble."

You are generalizing about hygiene, and your description, "The kid doesn’t have to get up, get a shower and breakfast, organize him/herself, get to school and join society," describes many college students across the country who are managing autonomy for the first time in their lives. For many homeschoolers, who learned to be independent earlier, and who learned to manage their time and the learning earlier, these are no longer issues--if they ever were to begin with.


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Posted by fiscal conservative
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm

Tax dollars going to homeschoolers?

What a waste.


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Posted by Student
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 17, 2017 at 4:57 pm

" is there a reason you have to do homeschool that way?"

My mother makes me do it that way. I apologize I didn't spell it the way you want it spelled, but I didn't know.


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Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2017 at 5:03 pm

@fiscal conservative,

"Tax dollars going to homeschoolers? What a waste."

Parcel tax dollars going to teacher and administrator raises--instead of the promised smaller classes--was not just a "waste" of tax money but a travesty.


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Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 17, 2017 at 5:37 pm


Hi Fiscal Conservative,
For the most part, homeschoolers are not costing taxpayers. Anyone filing a PSA is paying for their own education. The children going through Ocean Grove are costing less to taxpayers than children in brick and mortar schools they might otherwise attend, so they are saving taxpayer dollars.

Let's also not forget that these families are paying taxes for the local schools like everyone else and getting nothing like the same benefit in Palo Alto where the district has no hybrid option like all these other nearby districts. My family pays for two kids to go to PAUSD. If we signed up for Ocean Grove, we would still be paying in more than it is costing taxpayers.


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Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 17, 2017 at 6:23 pm

"It sure sounds luxurious to me. One can get up any time and have custom-made interests/lessons. Fun field trips.
The kid doesn’t have to get up, get a shower and breakfast, organize him/herself, get to school and join society."

Hi Anonymous,
Homeschooled kids have to get up and shower and eat, organize for what is often a more challenging academic life than at school, and join society, just like anyone else. The difference is that they usually choose it, and are responsible for themselves starting at an earlier age than kids who are just answering to a bell and adults telling them they have to be in school.

Your post brought some grins to faces at our dinner table tonight. Because mine chose homeschooling, I laid down ground rules that said child was going to have to take care of those things without forcing me to be the hall monitor. Sometimes, said student chooses to attend the 8am calculus course before dressing, or take breakfast to class. Homeschooling, you get the choice to do that. And like any adult, my homeschooler can choose how to manage their time and person.

People tend to homeschool so the child can be self-directed and learn to take care of themselves earlier. My homeschooler is too busy to not "join society" and generally society is more varied than a single adult and same-age peer group like in school. (Humans only started this Prussian model 150 years ago, it's not even something we evolved doing. I'm not sure why that's considered "normal".)

That said, it is luxurious, in the sense that, we don't have to deal with meaningless stress from school overhead that doesn't benefit and often hurts our child's education and independence. It's great. It's not for everyone, but yeah, getting to stay up late to go meet Walter Isaakson, and listen to him talk to the former President of Stanford about Leonardo da Vinci (and the biography my child will have time to read because of homeschooling) -- and then doing the calculus afterwards -- it's great getting to choose to sleep in the next day. (Didn't see hardly any young people there, they were all home doing their homework from school.)

Homeschooled kids often get to do more because they have that kind of autonomy, that adults have. I think it's a little far to call it cosseted, especially since homeschoolers often have to be more organized. Again, the difference is purpose, not perfection.


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Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2017 at 7:10 pm

As Indie-homeschooler is indicating, Stanford is a great resource for homeschooled students. When the university brings guest speakers or performers to town, kids who are not loaded with homework and have to get up early the next morning, are in a great position to attend. Many of the university's events are free and open to the public.


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Posted by Inquirer
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 17, 2017 at 10:05 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Indie-school
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 17, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Dear Inquirer,
There is no need to veer into such territory, or incorrect facts to support it. Here is a more factual history of homeschooling: Web Link
Note the article says:
"The overall home school movement is also much more diverse. ... [S]ociologists Philip Q. Yang and Nihan Kayaardi argue that the home school population does not significantly differ from the general U.S. population. ... it is not really possible to assume anything about the religious beliefs, political affiliations or financial status of home schooling families anymore."

There is no correlation between homeschooling increases and the Trump administration. Homeschooling rose about 8% every year for many years, regardless of the administration. The fastest growing segment is for innovation in education. I heard a KQED story not too long ago that said the fastest growing demographic is educated African American families. I don't know a single homeschooling family who homeschools for the reasons you are suggesting. I do know several who felt their only choice was to homeschool because of the ways they were treated by the district, and they stayed once they realized how much better off their children were. Still, I think most wish the district would improve, and for partnerships with the district.

In the groups I belong to at least, the political landscape mirrors the local general population, but discussion is mainly focused on education. Often, I see discussions on educational opportunities kids can take advantage of related to service, social justice, diversity, the environment. Homeschoolers often have many more opportunities to engage in service, just as the students profiled in this story have.

KQED has long been a great source of homeschooling resources. Here is an article from 2014:
Web Link
"Overwhelming. That’s the word you hear when you ask homeschooling parents about the resources available to them today. The homeschooling and unschooling movements, along with the open-education resource movement, have led to a wealth of free or low-cost and high-quality material available, especially online. The tough part is finding the time to wade through and evaluate it all."

If you understood what it is like to see your child become independent, confident, competent, creative again, when school was crushing and demoralizing, and to see how much more your child can do when their education is up to them, I think you would understand the focus is on the kids and their education. It would be lovely to bring that to the schools, but until and unless, we are so glad we found this. I think it saved us as a family.


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Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2017 at 12:27 am

"My mother makes me do it that way. I apologize I didn't spell it the way you want it spelled, but I didn't know."

You said "my homeschool", a noun, rather than using the verb, and then you apologized for a spelling error because you still didn't pick up on that when I explained it above. You frankly just don't come across as someone who is actually homeschooling, because what you describe is so different than anything people do, and you are unfamiliar with the "jargon".

If you are actually in that situation, you should reach out first to your parents, maybe even give them this story, because you don't have to homeschool like that. My homeschooler was not doing well in math in PAUSD, but having the chance to homeschool allowed accelerating to advanced college level math in the middle of high school. Homeschooling usually allows more advanced work with a much more normal life, simply because of less overhead. Kids do much better if they have choices and are self-motivated. That's really the major benefit of homeschool. It's not much of a benefit if you do it in a way that is just going to burn you out and make you hate learning like so many experience in school.

Do you have a homeschool community? You mentioned "my home school" - can you tell us what is your home school?


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Posted by Question
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2017 at 7:45 am

Has anyone tried to start a charter school here in PAUSD? It seems there are lots of people with energy, talent and resources here to pull that off. If PAUSD were forced to legitimize an alternative, this would also help those at the main schools.


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Posted by Bullis Charter
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 18, 2017 at 9:27 am

@ Question

many people don't realize that if you are a resident of Santa Clara County you are eligible for Bullis Charter in Los Altos.
No need to wait for PAUSD.


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Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2017 at 9:28 am

Dear Question,
You have asked a good question. After many years in the district, I don't think you get anywhere forcing the district to do anything, even if it involves life and death, health and safety. It takes a lot of time and energy, and if you are dealing with people who just put up kneejerk roadblocks even if you are working to help all children, you're probably better off using the energy to create something else. The history in this district is that the only way to get the district to go along without a bruising battle is to give them a bucketload of money with strings attached.

The bruising battles have consequences to families and children, and are not really worth it in the end if you have to force PAUSD to do what they should know to do anyway or should be a partnership. It doesn't go well.

It is possible to start a charter, but it has to be accepted by the district. The county can force the district, but that is another level of battle. San Mateo got Design Tech High, or D Tech, which is a very sought after charter with a new building on the Oracle campus, because Oracle did the same thing there, basically built the school and donated everything so they could do things their way (new educational approach).

The point of homeschooling is that if your child needs something else, it isn't necessary to wait on a charter school being built. There are county charters available in Santa Clara County. There may be physical charters in other cities available to others in the county (Summit?) but there are a number of distance charters like Ocean Grove, Valley View, Connecting Waters, etc. They are charters Palo Alto children can enroll in. Palo Alto children can enroll in COIL, too, which has its own location and hundreds of teens, and the ability to take classes in the Fremont district. (It's probably subject to space availability.)

If someone wanted to influence the district by building an alternative through a donation, they could easily and rapidly build a physical location for any of the existing county charter homeschool programs who wanted it. Or for all of them. Many indie-schooling parents have wished for a physical campus that allows many independent vendors to exist at a single location, with community facilities for gym, etc. Such things actually do exist around the country, they are like community colleges for independent education. Some even exist within public school districts. Here's one written about in Harvard's Ed School Newsletter recently:
Web Link

If someone wanted to bring the benefits of something different to Palo Alto, this would be one way to do that. The beauty of it is the beauty of homeschooling: lots of energy and community-building from the participants who are willing to take the risks in order to provide something new and better. This is the essence of innovation. You can't force it on a school district, but it can be fostered where it already exists, and provide a viable alternative that eventually leads to partnerships.


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Posted by Snowflakes
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 18, 2017 at 9:38 am

I'm not sure why, but this whole thread reeks of "snowflake children" to me, those who are deemed so precious that they need to be protected from the madness of the "real world" (to the extent that even exists in Palo Alto). I mean, does a kid really need a hot lunch every day? And is it a bad thing to sit outside and eat??

I'm sure I will get a full-blown essay with very good grammar in response to this comment, but maybe there is some value for these homeschool parents to see how they are being perceived, at least by some of the community.

I wish the kids well, but consider that a little less proselytizing may be in order.

BTW, we love the PAUSD schools so far (7th grade). And, yes, I'm sure it all falls apart in 8th...


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Posted by JMom
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2017 at 11:34 am

@Snowflake

I’m not sure why, either. Maybe it has more to do with you?

My kids don’t get a hot meal at lunch, they make their own breakfasts and lunches and also help make dinner. They have daily chores. They have school and homework and hobbies. We go outside every day to walk the dogs, to go to our exercise class at the park and to head to classes. If I can protect my kids from bullies by homeschooling, great. But I don’t “protect” them from the real world, as we are actually IN the real world every day rather than sitting in a school 35 hours a week. We have many good friends we spend time with every week and a wider circle of dozens of homeschooled acquaintances we socialize with, do classes with, etc. The kids have conflicts with some of them, with siblings and with parents they have to work out. What is it you think the real world is, anyway? It’s certainly not school. When else, in the course of your entire, long life, are you ever again with only your exact same aged peers all day long?

It’s curious that you state that you’ll get an essay back with perfect grammar. As if that is something to deride? Interesting. I would think that the idea that the homeschool parents who are commenting here are intelligent, well spoken, and communicate well would give you comfort.

It seems that you are very entrenched in your ideas about what homeschooling and homeschoolers are, regardless of so much evidence to the contrary. I feel sad that you aren’t willing to take all of the above evidence of homeschool success in the article and posts above into account and refrain from judging with preconceived ideas. Perhaps you’re feeling jealous that you have not taken this path? Are you feeling judged that your child is in public school? Please feel free to do some more research on what homeschooling is and how it could be successful in your family, too. Check out HSC.org for more info.

Some parents, a very few minority, given the population, pulled their kids from schools, have homeschooled them, and are succeeding. What in the world is wrong with that, and where in the world did you get the incorrect idea that we do it because we think they are precious snowflakes, as if doing the right thing by your kids in a given situation is bad?


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Posted by PA Homeschooler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2017 at 11:48 am

@Snowflakes,

No, kids don't need a hot lunch everyday, though some of us find it preferable in colder weather. Many kids have food and other allergies. So it is much easier to prepare food for such kids on one's own. Kids with food allergies would not find PAUSD (hot) lunches dependable.

"Snowflake" is often used to shame and shut down parents.

The alternatives we're describing are not for special, "snowflake" children. The point is that, for those who are interested, there are alternative opportunities for kids in general--not simply the "snowflakes" you imagine and mock--who live in Palo Alto whose current school situation is not working well for them. Those with serious allergies, as noted in the article above, will tend to be in this category.


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Posted by PAmom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2017 at 12:28 pm

I went to Cubberley High School in the 70's and joined it's alternative school (Alternative School Cubberley, or ASC). That provided me with the best of both worlds. I took the courses I still wanted to take in the regular school, and the rest through ASC. They offered regular seminars with an emphasis on critical thinking, and we had to meet with an assigned teacher and discuss how we were going to meet all our academic requirements. We could do as much of those as we wanted independently. I did a combination of all three. I found that I had to be way more independent and organized than before, which helped my maturity. I also realized that, before, I felt like the teachers had been spoon-feeding me as if I were a baby with all the same information as everyone else, that I was expected to swallow without question. It was the critical thinking aspect that was often missing. Cubberley's and Paly's alternative schools were havens for kids who for some reason didn't fit the same mold as the other kids. I have multiple eye disorders and I couldn't read the blackboards. I also had an undiagnosed neurological condition, and orthopedic problems and couldn't do regular school P.E. While I, and maybe others was stigmatized for being in ASC by parents and kids, ASC for me was a God send. It didn't affect transcripts or college applications in that all of us were just graduates from the same public high school; no one had to know we were in the alternative school unless we told them.

Since then, all the massive budget cuts caused the public alternative schools to fall by the wayside, so families with such kids can homeschool instead, which has many of the same benefits of the alternative schools. It seems naysayers like Snowflake and others are judgmental and lack empathy for families with kids who are different.


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Posted by Help
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 18, 2017 at 12:54 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2017 at 1:06 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


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Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2017 at 1:52 pm

To Snowflakes in Fairmeadow,
It's great that you love the schools! That's what everyone should have. Our district has a vision of helping every child reach their creative potential (I think that's the exact phrase). Unfortunately, it hasn't been working out so well for a lot of kids. Be happy for other people when they find what works for them; you should not let other families' finding ways to solve things bother you so much that you frame their positive educational journeys so incorrectly and negatively.

Homeschoolers already have to deal with negative perceptions from people who don't bother to learn what it is, although things are improving -- thanks to articles like these and people like Novelera above who are open to learning new things.

Every homeschooler knows someone or experiences family members who think they are trying to take down public schools (even if they homeschool through a public district or wish they could partner with one) or shield their kids from life (even if their homeschoolers are much more a part of the real world than the kids in school).

One of our child's friends from local schools who wants to work in STEM fields told us recently that a PAUSD high school teacher discouraged said student from math, on the belief that doing math well is just something some kids have and others don't. This is on top of systemic discouragement of a perfectly bright and motivated student. Unfortunately, math education in the district isn't good for everyone. Our student would have experienced the same but instead we were able to provide courses that supported self-study and self-pacing, and lo and behold, the love of math came back and it was possible to accelerate and do well. All on our student, I don't even have to tell said student to attend or prepare for class. (In the beginning, our student just worked out of books without even taking classes, and turned in completed tests to the district program.) One evidence of it being the right track is dramatically higher standardized test scores without any studying for them, which was not the case before when our child was in school.

Would our child's friend be a "special snowflake" for not accepting the many messages, direct and indirect, from school, that they should be discouraged from pursuing math? I think again it's important to make a distinction between subjecting students to denigration and pain for no purpose, and the inevitable challenges of life/desirable challenges of learning (the latter of which homeschooled student are able to take charge of for themselves).

One common observation by homeschoolers and those who work with them is that they tend to be better socialized across the spectrum of age groups, including with adults. It's really a striking difference. Sometimes with school kids, I forget the invisible wall that is supposed to be between the age groups, as if I should be the off-screen teacher in Charlie Brown. It really seems much healthier and normal when people see each other as human beings. A little more of that might solve some of our problems of ageism in the workplace or problems the elderly face in our society.

Why does it bother you that some kids do not do well in PAUSD and have found something much better for them that involves far more autonomy, freedom, and learning to live in the real world? I hear constant complaints by manager friends that kids coming out of school are too helpless and expect to be told what to do. Often that complaint is particularly strong about students with perfect traditional academic records. The lesson of homeschooling is that it is possible to give students in school far more freedom and autonomy. I find it hilarious that critics here think freedom and autonomy means "curated" just because it's "customized" from the student's standpoint. Better doesn't have to always mean painful and unpleasant.


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Posted by Student
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2017 at 1:54 pm

"You mentioned "my home school" - can you tell us what is your home school?"

My home. That's where I go to school. I apologize for my words. I only know what my mother teaches me at my home school. She does not teach jargon.

Do your kids get time off? Do they play on teams with other kids after school?


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Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

[Portion removed.]

Yes, homeschoolers get time off. Homeschoolers tend to get more time off than kids in school, IF they choose it. One of the problems for homeschoolers is that when they realize the many things they can be learning and doing, they sign up for and plan far too many things. Homeschoolers don't have to sit in school all day, their day is up to them, and they learn how to try to accomplish what they want in that day, just like college kids and adults do.

My homeschooler has activities with groups of kids, including activities considered afterschool activities for schoolkids, and plays group sports with other people spanning ages 6-80, including many young adults.

Homeschooling allows them to play sports when it best fits the student's schedule, not just "after school" and sometimes that's during the day when only adults or other homeschoolers can play the sport. The school team sports have not been available to us, even though the middle school sports are sponsored by the City, not the schools, and our taxes pay for both. Our student gravitates toward racket sports and track and field, and would definitely appreciate more coaching in the latter, but we can't afford it and the schools here don't allow homeschoolers to join. So said student does what they do for everything, which is make the best of it. There are plans to get the coaching at the community college, but there are limits on the number of high school students in CC PE classes, and the timing hasn't worked yet.

Do homeschoolers get time off? Yes. The great thing about homeschooling is that you have more flexibility to take time off and even travel when you want, not just when the school has a break or the homework lets up.

This year, my homeschooler chose a schedule that left Monday, Wednesday all day, and Friday morning completely open. Not for taking time off, but because the student had a lot they wanted to get done this year, and wanted long blocks of time rather than having to go from this to that. My homeschooler has had a lot more activities with other homeschoolers, though, since friends from school tend to get pretty busy during the year. Schoolkids get breaks at the same time and don't necessarily get a lot of practice in how to schedule things with others who aren't in school. You have to remember that just because most homeschoolers have a lot of flexibility and choose their education, that they can't necessarily drop things at any time, they have their work and deadlines, too. Often, they also have college classes they are taking in person or online.








2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 18, 2017 at 4:49 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


6 people like this
Posted by Reluctant Homeschooler
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Not every kid can adapt to the same model, just like not every adult would thrive in the same basic job.
I did NOT want to homeschool middle and/or high school. I did everything I could to work with the school until I realized that the process was triggering a spiraling depression and suicide became a concern.
While there are some parents out there who may want unreasonable accommodations for their "precious snowflakes" there are also a myriad of kids who aren't adapting and can't adjust. Failing an ability for the schools to accommodate them without punitive measures that can trigger or worsen depression and/or behavior issues, homeschooling may be the best option.
My kid has very high expectations now, she's just able to separate learning to live with her health issues from her education. Which is priceless.


7 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm

Dear Curmudgeon,
No one is badgering Student, and there is no cause for you to write that. I am another human being here, too, and I have been nothing but respectful, and will continue to be. Homeschooling in order to innovate and take advantage of myriad resources not available to brick and mortar schoolkids is far from a "cult",in fact, people are finding their way on their own, that's what autonomy is.

In our case, it really took being a part of an online community of homeschoolers and understanding what was possible before I knew we could do this, and it really saved our child and us as a family. This is simply autonomous, independent, self-directed, customized education, for some people it's unschooling. But it's much less like a "cult" than going to school every day and being told what to do with every waking hour.

Student has asked some questions, and I am trying to be helpful. But the way Student is asking the questions makes it seem, strongly, that the student has neither read the article nor has any familiarity with homeschooling. If someone says, "I am so unhappy when I am taking my roller skates on the Internet, I don't have a life" instead of "I don't like surfing the Internet, I get sucked in", it's not that anyone is going to send the jargon police after them — and I never suggested Student spelled anything incorrectly, that came from student in an answer that further suggested s/he isn't really homeschooled - it's that it sounds like they don't have any familiarity with the thing they are describing, and may have other reasons for saying it.

Maybe there is an explanation. But the Student originally described a situation that borders on abusive, that should be a concern to anyone regardless of how they are educated. When young people make pranks that make people not take someone in real trouble seriously, that's almost as bad as hurting people in trouble themselves. I'm giving Student a graceful way out if that is the case, and a chance to say more if they really need help.

Either way, I am answering the questions posed respectively and openly. But if Student is indeed in a situation in which a parent is making the child work through meals and have no contact with anyone, this is well beyond a homeschooling issue. If the Student is simply trying to cover for a funny remark, it would be good to speak up and know no one will judge him/her, so the posters who have expressed concern can know there isn't a child in fact trying to ask for help. A prank in this kind of situation can end up causing someone vulnerable to lose help they might otherwise get.

There are people who school at home by doing the school curriculum in their home location. That's not really what the story was about, and it's not typical here (especially in Crescent Park), it's more what people who don't know their options do when, for example, they live far away from a physical school. Sometimes that's what kids who have health problems do temporarily because their parents fear they will get behind their peers in school. Even if so, s/he would know how to answer the question I asked. If Student can't answer anything at all about their situation because s/he just made it up to be funny, it's good to own up now, I will continue to answer the question s/he is posing to me; if student is actually homeschooling, answering that question would be a way to get help.






6 people like this
Posted by Stanford
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 18, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Two of the sophomores in my Stanford class this quarter were home-schooled, both so that they could devote the time needed to pursue sports at a high level. I didn't discern any social or other issues with these students, one of whom was one of my top students, and the other of whom was near the middle of the pack.


2 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2017 at 8:42 pm

Still looking for that School of Hard Knocks, let me know when it opens.


4 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 18, 2017 at 10:54 pm

Hi Bob,
School of Hard Knocks is life, open24/7. Not sure why our exchange was deleted before, it was light hearted on my end, I thought too from yours. I probably commented on the difference between life and choosing knocks when it isn't necessary or beneficial. Seems to be a lot of that in this town.

I got my advanced degrees from that school. Taught me more than any expensive school, but I sure wouldn't recommend it. It's one reason I like homeschooling, leading a more authentic life. Life is not easy, why burn out for no good reason? I am so glad kids today have such choices.


2 people like this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 19, 2017 at 4:00 pm

I meant to answer this

To Fairmeadow Dad,
"I had to laugh....

"For many Palo Alto families who opt to home-school their children, the term is a misnomer for what their children's education looks like. Their experiences disprove the often-held misconception of a parent teaching a child at the kitchen table all day."

(picture in the article is...parent teaching children at the kitchen table)"

Actually, the picture is of two children learning from a young neighbor who was herself homeschooled, according to the caption. But you are right, another photo shows two students showing up to work at the dining table. Parents of ala carte schoolers usually help put things together rather than act as teacher, though. There are many wonderful independent professional educators out there.


1 person likes this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 3, 2018 at 9:47 am

This Alternet post from today really resonated
I Was Homeschooled, and I Believe in Public Schools—Here's What Needs to Change About Them
Web Link
Something to think about for those trying to innovate in our schools


1 person likes this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 3, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Geez, this just occurred to me. Don't homeschooling parents who were themselves schooled in public schools merely pass on the failings of those public schools to their pupils? Public schools have been documented to be failing since Why Johnny Can't Read came out in 1955, so all of today's public schooled parents must have attended failing public schools.


1 person likes this
Posted by Indie-schooling
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 3, 2018 at 1:10 pm

Hi Curmudgeon!
A salient characteristic of today's homeschooling is innovation! And customization, just as in the article I just posted. I went to a really great public school (with many of the innovator traits people aspire to today), then a terrible public school, then a great private school, then a terrible public school, then a top university. None of that has any bearing on our homeschooling. Homeschooling is about finding what is best for the child. Many of the resources today did not exist even ten years ago.

Studies of homeschoolers and standardized testing do not abound, but the largest found no achievement or gender gap. Also, children of very educated parents did only slightly better than children of parents with little education. The parents' background isn't really the issue.

Today's homeschooling is often not a parent at home teaching a child, as the original article points out, it is a parent putting together a customized education that includes the real world beyond school. Innovators are those with a problem to solve who are willing to lead to solve it. There would be no such thing as innovation if people were condemned only to repeat the bad experiences of their own pasts. That said, this is more about the present, and the students, not their parents. And it's not even about "failed public schools" since so many modern homeschoolers develop relationships with and even programs at local public schools.

In a world with such rich technological and knowledge opportunities, there is now an opportunity cost to staying in school, for some kids. The structure and overhead of school was hurting our homeschooler's intellectual and academic progress. That is not to say the kids are wild, but that the specific structure in the school was applied for the benefit of the school and to the detriment of our student's learning and social-emotional wellness. School was systematically destroying the creativity and spirit of a self-motivated learner. Allowing the freedom even improved the same learner' test scores to well above what they were in the district (now without any prep). There is nothing against public school, I think the subject of which local districts have homeschooling programs comes up a lot because many students would benefit from hybrid programs.

Our district should consider this, since they could be set up quickly, and the district could be a part of what works and doesn't without having to be responsible for the outcomes. They could take credit for innovating without doing anything themselves.

I was just thinking this morning that our schools really do not appreciate the opportunity cost of the control they exercise over their students' learning journeys. Just last night our homeschooler discussed how the current math journey needed to shift, so we talked with the wonderful independent educator and we all decided on a more MOOC approach for now instead of the live online class. Imagine doing that in school, as soon as a child realizes their needs in a course are not a good match for the resource, it could be adapted. (The parents education has nothing to do with it.)


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