An open letter to state Sen. Mary Easley:
Recent news reports indicate that a bill you're introducing this year would require my wife and me to notify our local school district that we are homeschooling our four children, and would also require us to provide an academic progress report to school officials.
Now I realize your bill is not yet law, and indeed probably won't become law, but in the spirit of good citizenship I wanted to check in nonetheless. Free society or not, I think it's important that rulers are kept apprised of what their citizens are up to.
I happened to notice some empty parking lots at an Edmond public school this morning as I was driving in to work. Apparently the public schools are closed today due to inclement weather. So I was thinking you might want to consider a friendly amendment to your bill: If ever the public schools would like to notify me that they are not educating children on a given day, they could contact me at my office (602-1667). It's best not to call our home phone, as my wife is busy teaching during the day and doesn't like to answer the phone.
As for an academic progress report, well, I assume the schools wouldn't have much to report to me today, what with them not teaching and all, but I don't mind giving you a brief summary of what's going on at our house. Feel free to pass this on to the school district if you like.
My 1st-grade son is studying his usual subjects: reading, grammar, math, and history. Ironically, today he is learning about one of his fellow homeschoolers, George Washington.
My 5th-grade daughter is, among other things, doing her 7th-grade Saxon math, studying the U.S. Constitution, and working on her future-tense Latin verbs. She's a corker, that one. When she was a mere 3rd grader, she was (according to your own state tests, which of course are famous for their rigor) a proficient 8th-grade reader.
My 8th-grade daughter is doing chemistry, grammar, history, math, and the present system passive of third-conjugation Latin verbs.
My 10th-grade son is working on his calculus, anatomy, and translating passages from Livy's Early History of Rome. He's also studying Teddy Roosevelt (another homeschooler! I didn't plan this, I swear. It's just that so many of the great ones were homeschooled.).
Now, I realize that your legislation requires me to give academic progress reports to the school district, but I trust that (here's another friendly amendment) in the spirit of good citizenship the school district wouldn't mind giving progress reports to me, too. I mean, not to pull rank or anything, but, hey, I am the one paying their salaries, not the other way around. And besides, reviewing Edmond's academic progress reports would be exceedingly helpful to my wife and me in helping us determine just how far behind our children are. It would show us the standard to which we should aspire.
For example, when my oldest son was in 8th grade, all he was really able to learn that year was Algebra II, Henle Latin I, intermediate logic, physical science, grammar, and composition. Well, plus he read and discussed The Epic of Gilgamesh; The Code of Hammurabi; The Odyssey; The Histories; The Oresteia Trilogy; Plutarch’s Lives; The Theban Trilogy; The Last Days of Socrates; The Early History of Rome; The Aeneid; The Twelve Caesars; Till We Have Faces; The Unaborted Socrates; Genesis; Exodus; I and II Samuel; I and II Kings; Isaiah; Jeremiah; Chosen by God; and Socrates Meets Jesus, among others.
Now, I'm not naïve. I realize that 8th graders in Oklahoma's world-class public school system are learning all this and more. Who among us didn't have an 8th-grade history teacher/football coach wax eloquent on the influence of Stoic philosophy on Gaius Gracchus? Heck, as a retired teacher you know better than anyone that the 8th graders in your hometown of Tulsa (or Owasso, or Grand Lake Towne, whatever) are learning all this and more. I'm just sayin': If the local school district would simply provide homeschooling parents with an academic progress report, we'll be able to see how far behind we are and set our sights accordingly. School officials could just send mine to my home address (105 Lakeview Court, Edmond, OK 73003), that would be fine.
Lastly, Senator, I wanted to point out something that might be of interest to you as you grapple with the huge budget shortfall at the state capitol this year. I was doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation the other day and determined that my wife and I have saved our fellow taxpayers more than $200,000 (so far) by educating our own children at home rather than asking taxpayers to foot the bill. (That's actually a conservative estimate -- there's no question the real cost is substantially higher.) And since our kids are still young, this figure will continue to mount, meaning you and your colleagues will have more money available to appropriate for roads and bridges, prisons, Medicaid, and so on. No, no, there's no need to send me a thank-you note. Well, okay. The home address would be fine.
Well, thank you for your time, Senator. And please, you feel free to check in anytime. Nothing warms my heart like answering the phone or a knock on the door and being greeted with a hearty, "Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
Right now I've got to get back to doing a little something done by so many great Americans, including father-of-three Horace Mann, the father of America's public school system: homeschooling my children.