April 2007


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THE BLACK THINGS

 

                By Kaylen Isabella Hou

   

                 A black hat

                 A black dres

                 A black cat

                 A pare of black shoes

                 A broom stick

                 What cood it be?

                 A WITCH A WITCH

                 across the sky

                 across the moon

                 and that is the end.

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Thanks for your comments, folks. From what I have heard from other homeschooling families in Taiwan, the regulation of homeschooling differs greatly across counties. For example, here in Taipei County we have four home visits from the school each year and only the teacher and the counselor, and sometimes only the teacher, comes to visit. A family in Taidong told me they were having 12-15 people showing up at their house for these visits. So, there the rule is: the school shall make home visits each semester, but how that rule is executed makes a big difference. One to two people coming for a casual visit is tolerable, 12-15 is ridiculous and intrusive (seems like they are just coming to gawk at the foreigners).

 Taipei City and Taipei County handle assessment in basically the same way. The City/County sets up the assessment day. Homeschooling families are divided up by household location and scheduled to meet in groups of 4 families with members of the homeschooling committee (the panel members). The student presents, the panel members look at the materials the student has brought in, there may be time for the parents to talk a bit about what the student has been working on this year, then the panel asks questions and makes comments. In Taipei City the panel seemed to give the families a pass/fail response right on the day, while in Taipei County the pass/fail notice is sent out later. I don’t know how much weight Assessment Day has in determining pass or fail in Taipei County. Our school teacher says they go completely by the teacher’s recommendation, so it makes you wonder why we all have to go through this…

I have often wondered what would happen if, from the beginning, our daughter just didn’t go to school, or petition for homeschooling approval and just use the rationale that she holds a foreign passport so she doesn’t have to go to school. We didn’t ever seriously consider that because we wanted to do things by the books. My husband felt better  about doing it by the books, otherwise he felt like we were sneaking around. And this way it is much easier to justify to my in-laws: I just tell them Kaylen is registered with the school and if it is ok with the teachers and the county and the Education Bureau then it should be ok for them. So, that was the right choice for our family. Other families might not care about doing things by the books and find the county oversight too intrusive, so not petitioning is the right choice for them.

I was also surprised to find a religious perspective being expressed by a member of the panel. It seems the homeschooling committee is trying to bring in people other than school teachers or principals, so have a couple homeschooling parents on the committee. This woman is a veteran homeschooler having homeschooled 5 of her own. Probably most of the “veteran” homeschoolers in Taiwan are Christians as they were the earliest group pushing for the right to homeschool. I almost fell over when I heard her say, “And remember moms, a happy mom makes a happy household!” But I have to say she looked like she was infused by the holy spirit or something, her face was all lit up and she exuded all this energy, she has one of those round, shiny foreheads like Xu Zhenchang and Chen Shuibian that sends out a beam of light…

Another thing that happened was that the panel was wondering how they could be of service in arranging networking activities and get-togethers for homeschooling families. We all declined the need, said we could take care of it ourselves. I find it strange that the county would offer to take on this task; in the US the attitude is, you have rejected the public school system, you go set up your own damn network if you need it.  And, who would want another level of county involvement anyway? Just introduces another area for them to control.

 POI: The Organization to Promote Independent Learning based in Taipei is holding their annual meeting this Saturday afternoon. Check out their webite for info: http://www.alearn.org.tw/

Homeschooling assessment day

Kaylen just had her homeschooling assessment for 2007. It is the big final year-end grade given to us by Taipei county.  A panel of three representatives from the committee which manages the homeschoolers in Taipei county met with four homeschooling families in our area.

We brought piles of stuff to show them what we have been doing – workbooks, posters we have made, scrapbooks, artwork, drawings, knitting, crochet project, embroidery, dried flower and leaf collection album, stamp album, etc. Kaylen gave a slide show presentation. The other 4 kids did slide show presentations or reports from a scrap book.

 Posters

The panel did not comment specifically on anything we showed them. It felt kind of anti-climactic.  All that work preparing for a ten-minute review by the panel. I guess we should be happy that they were not critical of what we were doing, and seemed to think everything was going fine and there was not much to comment on.

 The three panel members took turns giving general comments to the group. Here are some of the things they said:

1) Parents should figure out their child’s strengths and then nurture them and work in that direction.

2) The best part of homeschooling is being able to design your own program; don’t feel you need to follow the school formula.

3) Use resources well – make use of resources in the community like the library and museums, and even the school’s resources (hmm, not sure what those would be in our case).

4) We like to see lots of variety, that you are exposing your kid to lots of different things; we’d like to see you doing it even better so that we can be more confident about what you are doing. (A bit patronizing but the guy who said was trying to be really supportive throughout the meeting and I think meant well.)

5) The child needs to interact with other people.

6) The parent should get the child’s input and thoughts on what to learn; set up the curriculum together.

7) Sometimes life is the curriculum.

 8) One Christian homeschooling mom on the panel made these comments: Our children are not our possessions, it is not for us to decide what to do with them. God will lead them in what they need. Parents need to take care of their own relationship and work on communicating with each other. A happy mom makes the whole household happy.

Two years ago I attended the homeschooling assessment of a friend of ours in Taipei. She (first grader) did a nice presentation in Chinese and had lots of materials to show the panel. All the kids seem to do a good job that day, however, then panel still had negative things to say. My thought then was that, no matter how well you perform that day, they will still have to have something negative to say because they fundamentally do not llike homeschooling, or feel it is their job to raise criticisms. One woman’s comments really stuck with me: 1) homeschooling students better not fall behind with learning Chinese characters because they are just going to keep piling up and the student may fall behind and what are you going to do then? 2) It is really nice that you are coddling and protecting your child now, but eventually your child will have to go out into the world, you cannot protect them forever, eventually they will have to go out and meet someone to marry. 3) You kids are so lucky that your parents are coddling and protecting you so much! How nice for you! (very sarcastically and ironically, meaning those kids are not lucky at all!)

 The comments and reactions of the Taipei County panel did not lead me to think they were looking for us to be doing everything according to the school schedule, or that we were doing something bad that was going to hurt our child for life, or that they were hostile to homeschooling in general. They didn’t even ride us about ‘socialization’, the usual favorite thing to flog homeschoolers with. One panel member asked if we felt good about our current social activity situation, we said we did, and he said, “Great. Perfect. Just wondering if we could be of help but if you are ok then that’s fine”.

So, all is well. We now start to get ready for next year.

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I guess the illusion I am thinking about today is the illusion that Billy Collins sat down at his famous table next to his famous window surrounded by his famous wall paper and wrote his poem “I Ask You” in about five minutes, the same five minutes that I took to read his poem. That his poem was composed as a smooth complete lozenge ready to be consumed. That nothing was crossed out or erased, that there were no other possible choices for words. That the poem was inevitable and fell from his mind like a minted coin falling off the press. I sometimes think that one good poem can last a person a lifetime. Maybe that is actually how long it takes to write a poem, or at least that it took one’s whole life up to that point.

 A book of smooth lozenges:

 The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins

A window muse:

Window